“CBS News – Suicides Seen Among Vets Treated By VA”
CBS News carried a story on March 20, 2008 called, Suicides Seen Among Vets Treated By VA. I found out about the article at the Iraqi War Veterans Forum. According to CBS, the VA has a study indicating there is a rising number of Veterans committing suicide. It further states that even troops seen by the VA have still committed suicide.
“Now, Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian has discovered veterans who get help from the VA are also at risk.”
Without wanting to be flippant or making readers feel I am not concerned about our troops and their welfare, I ask, why is this a surprise to anyone? Anyone who faces death, has to kill, or placed in a circumstance where their life is at risk of death, suffers from that experience. Even law enforcement officers must see a professional as a matter of policy, after they have been involved in a shooting, especially when they have had to kill a suspect! EMT’s and fireman and women also suffer the same outcome. Is it a dramatic leap in anyone’s imagination that troops would be any different?
“Now, CBS News has obtained never-before seen patient data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, detailing the growing number of suicide attempts among vets recently treated by the VA.
The data reveals a marked overall increase – from 462 attempts in 2000 to 790 in 2007.”
Our troops are facing an enemy unlike any other faced before by a soldier. This enemy weaves itself among the civilian population, uses men, women, and “children” as shields. It trains children as suicide bombers. It stays in the shadows and permeates its fear and terror among the civilian populace it claims to fight for. It even kills them at will to force civilian support through fear and intimidation! Is it any wonder that the suicide rate has risen?
“According to the experts, two age groups stood out between 2000 and 2007. First, ages 20-24 – those likely to have served during the Iraq-Afghan wars. Suicide attempts rose from 11 to 47.
And for vets ages 55 to 59, suicide attempts jumped from 19 to 117.
In both age groups, the attempted suicides grew at a rate much faster than the VA patient population as a whole.”
I have PTSD. It has caused me to spend years under going professional help. I have been involved in so many programs in an attempt to help myself that I have encountered many suicidal people. A well known and established fact is the risk of suicide among people who are recovering from depression no matter what the cause. I, myself went through a very long suicidal stage as my depression began to lift.
You see, as depression lifts, there is the feeling of “no emotions or feelings!” There is this overwhelming feeling of “nothingness” that seems to never leave! Can you imagine feeling as if you can’t “love” your own wife, husband, children, family,or anyone or thing? Add to that the burden of “flashbacks” of whatever experience caused your PTSD and/or depression!
Imagine finding yourself hiding under a desk, in a bathroom stall, in a closet, or any other number of “safe” places tom prevent further pain or injury. Imagine a sound, smell, single word or phrase making you tremble with fear. Making you want to run and hide, escape, when you know inside “no place is really!” Sexual abuse victims experience this throughout their life as they battle PTSD.
Now, you are a soldier! You are at home. The war is over! “No!” It is never over! Sudden loud noises, a smell, any number of events or things others don’t even notice act as a “trigger” back to the horrors of war. Now, imagine further that your fellow countrymen and women spit on you! They blow up recruiting offices, protest in the streets everything they sent you off to war to defend and protect! They call you names, they accuse you of unspeakable crimes! Who wouldn’t want to kill them self? Who wouldn’t become suicidal? It is all one can do to live with the effects of war from battle; and, now, a battle must be fought back home against those you served and protected!
The VA tries to help. But, for years, elements in the country have done everything possible to strip away the money needed for the VA to keep up its facilities and its service to Veterans. Decisions are made, ones no administrator wants to ever have to make, as to where to make improvements and where to cut costs. Another war begins. Doctors in the field are now saving patients who previously would have died from unimaginable injuries. But, back home, the already under funded VA with its dilapidated buildings, diminished service capabilities, limited staff, and inexperienced doctors in these new areas of treatment can’t keep up.
In Congress, elements in control, refuse the money needed to fix the facilities, train staff in these new areas of treatment, hire more staff, and provide our Veterans with the quality care they need and deserve! Hell, they won’t even provide the funds in a timely manner for the troops in the field. They force our troops to scavenger for what they need on occasion! Then they blast our President over his mis-management, blast the Defense Department over its failures to our troops, blast our Generals for failing to lead when a “small few” commit acts we all know are wrong.
So, you tell me, who is really failing the troops?
“Rep. Bob Filner is chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. He’s been critical of the VA’s unwillingness to provide a full accounting of veteran suicides.
“These are incredible figures,” he said……
“It angers Filner. “If we can’t get the correct information, we can’t do our job. We can’t prevent every suicide but you can prevent a whole lot of them and it’s our duty as a nation to do that.” ….
“..Harold Pendergrass worries the VA remains ill-prepared to handle the next generation of veterans who will be fighting the horrors of war … for decades to come.
“If what the VA is doing is not working then they need to change tactics,” Pendergrass said. “They need to listen to these guys and listen not only with their ears but also with their hearts.”
I agree with Veteran, Harold Pendergrass. He has struggled with suicidal thoughts for years. He carries a “suicide note” in his pocket all the time! He has tried to commit suicide a number of times. But, I don’t lay all the blame and responsibility at the doors of the VA.
The American people and Congress have failed its Veterans. We, the “silent majority” have exercised incredible negligence and abdication of responsibility in not forcing Congress to fully support the VA and other Veteran needs both during war time and in times of peace! We have allowed a subversive element to take control of one of our political parties and entrench themselves in Congress. We have allowed that group to strip away military spending and divert it to domestic programs. While many of the programs were necessary or good, many were not and much waste and mismanagement occurred in many of those programs only to be covered up by another program!
So, while I will agree the VA is a bureaucracy in and of itself that has its own accountability to answer for, I cannot in good conscience hold them totally responsible for the poor standard of care provided our Veterans. We must continue to hold the VA to high standards and accountability. But, we must also make sure Congress does its job and provides the VA with the funds and means to do their job of providing competent and quality care for all our veterans. We don’t need another damn committee, investigation, or study. We need action in Congress!
It is the least we should do for those who have given up so much; and, will continue to do so “to serve and protect” our nation against “all enemies” both foreign and “domestic”!